10 weeks | Get on the bus, baby | no. 0003
Nice, well-meaning lady gets up so we can sit down. He is asleep in the wrap that I wear him in. With a receiving blanket draped to cover his face, and the wrap I wear over my head loosely draped over that. Three layers of defense against the germ-infested universe that is public transportation. Nice lady asks to see my baby. NOOOO! I scream in my head. But out loud I smile, and lie, and say he just fell asleep. Only he fell asleep about twenty minutes ago and uncovering him wouldn’t have disturbed him. It’s just that, yes, I’m that mother. The one who is hyper-vigilant against any potential, invasive, microscopic organisms that might fall out of nice lady’s mouth, or off her face, or out of her hair while she coos sweet nothings to my child.
Nice lady sees right through new mommy’s overprotectiveness and makes small talk anyway. I don’t feel bad; she wreaks of stale cigarette smoke. Three stops from our stop and he starts to stir. It’s too soon for him to get up. I pat his back. He fusses more. Please stay asleep. Please don’t wake up screaming to nurse. On this bus. I lift the layers of germ defense wear to see if he’s awake. Sweating. Oops. Now I’ve got to expose him after all. Nice lady smiles down at him. More small talk. More unsuccessful attempts to settle him. Another red light. Almost there baby. It’s okay.
Off the crowded bus and into the fresh air. The people move so fast around us. I am trying to reapply my germ defenses without baking my baby. He goes back to sleep despite me fumbling to manage all these wraps and the overstuffed baby bag that contains, among other things, a checkbook. Really Binah? Who is writing checks at the drugstore? It took forever to pack the baby bag though, to go less than a ten minute ride away. But this is mother-and-son’s first solo excursion that’s not just a walk through the neighborhood. And it’s my first time on public transportation since I was about 34 weeks. (I had heard about the woman having her baby at the train station and just couldn’t imagine the good-hearted citizens of WMATA replacing my birth team.) I checked five times to make sure we had the keys. I brought snacks to last me several hours. Two changes of clothes, six diapers, two extra receiving blankets, bath soap and baby lotion. A toy, nursing pads, wipes, washcloths, wallet, medical insurance cards, cell phone, earphones. Oh, and the checkbook.
All this to go and buy foil and an accordion file folder for the bills that I insisted on going to get myself. Even after my partner offered to pick it up on his way home. No! We need to get out. We have to practice moving around on our own. Standing at this busy, wide intersection, the drugstore looks so far away. The cars are going faster than usual. Or maybe I am moving so slowly with a baby. The woman making a right turn doesn’t stop to let us finish crossing the street. I am slightly insulted for all mothers everywhere. Doesn’t she see me with a baby?
Waiting at the next crosswalk, I am staring at the massive drugstore on the corner. Suddenly I am feeling extremely small and vulnerable. There will be so many more germs in there than on the bus. Inside the store I look for the folder first. I don’t see any. We have come all this way. It took me nearly two hours to get us out of the house at the right window of just-nursed-and-burped-and-not-about-to-poop-and-should-be-ready-to-sleep-and-oh-yeah-mommy’s-got-on-clothes-too. We walked to the bus stop with seven minutes to spare. Waited for the bus across the street from the scary looking dog. Had to share our air on the bus with strangers who might have coughed or sniffled or sneezed. Got to the store despite tacky drivers who don’t know we have the right of way. And they don’t have a simple, little folder? The nerve.
I can’t deal that my folder is not here. I go to get the foil. Only three boxes. What’s up with this store? Anyway, I get my foil and go back to the school supplies aisle. They have to have it. I look up and down the shelves. Consider buying what I don’t want because I came all this way and need to go home with something more than foil. Maybe I need a notebook. No I don’t. My baby is stirring. Probably too warm. I take off my jacket and the outer wrap. I bounce through the aisle heading to the checkout. Oh well. Next time.
Just then, my eye catches a bright green thing sticking out of the bottom shelf. Wait. Could it be? It is! I am so happy. It’s the only one there. Exactly what I wanted. 12 tabs, elastic clasp, translucent. At the checkout the one cashier present is only partly focused on ringing me out. He complains to his coworker about a headache. They recall headaches are one of the symptoms of the new flu virus. Great. Now he can’t finish the sale at this register because I don’t have cash. I remember the checkbook but think better of it. He hands me my receipt but forgets my bag of foil and folder. I must just look like any other customer running errands to the store. But no, this is actually my first time navigating the world alone as a mother with child and these products are not just the next things needing to be restocked on the shelf. This purchase symbolizes that we went somewhere. Got something done. All by ourselves. Um, my bag please.
Same driver smiles as we board the bus home. I have the earphone in my right ear and I’m giving my mother every detail of our triumphant journey to the store. He’s still sleeping. I realize I can’t hold both bags in my lap and reluctantly put one down on the dirty bus floor. We’ll live. He wakes up when we get through the front door. He has slept through our entire milestone adventure. I’m feeling quite accomplished and exhausted and now have no energy to make the thing requiring the foil or set up a filing system in my spiffy, new organizer. Tomorrow.
The munchkin, my first born, was born on a Wednesday. Wednesday’s Bloom: Textual Portraits of a New Mommy is an ongoing multi-media documentary project about my process as a mother. Today’s story is a part of Volume 1, 73 consecutive weeks of posts, spanning about the first year and a half of the munchkin’s life. Each episode explores my weekly discoveries, challenges, questions, and hopes as a mother. I also facilitate the New Mommy Writers’ Workshop for all mothers and women active in their mothering work who are excited about cultivating their own writing practices.